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Australian Masters 2012: Adam Scott beats Ian Poulter

Scott pips Poulter for Australian Masters to end trophy drought after final-day surge

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UPDATED:

11:40 GMT, 18 November 2012

Adam Scott edged out playing partner Ian Poulter in a final day shootout to break a 15-month tournament drought and claim his first gold jacket at the Australian Masters in Melbourne.

Scott took on one of the fiercest competitors in world golf and beat him in a head-to-head battle at Kingston Heath, with the world No 5 overturning a one-shot deficit on the final day to win by four strokes at 17 under par.

The Australian's final round score of 67 was five shots better than Poulter's, with the pair finishing well clear of the rest of the field.

Late surge: Adam Scott pipped Ian Poulter to the Australian Master in fron of his home crowd

Late surge: Adam Scott pipped Ian Poulter to the Australian Master in fron of his home crowd

New Zealanders Gareth Paddison and Mark Brown had a close battle for third place, but had to settle for a share of the spoils some eight shots behind Scott.

Scott and Poulter went shot for shot over the first 11 holes, but the Englishman made bad mistakes on the two par fives on the way home that ultimately led to his downfall.

Poulter opted for a hybrid out of a fairway bunker at the 12th and could only move the ball forward 20 metres into more sand, before finding a greenside trap with his approach shot and settling for a bogey.

That put him two behind Scott and when he shot over the back and failed to get up-and-down at the 14th, the Australian's advantage was out to three.

Scott only had to make pars over the concluding stages to hold on and he did so with relative ease, before holing a birdie putt on the last to hammer the final nail into Poulter's coffin.

He did receive a minor scare when his playing partner birdied the tough par-four 16th to get back within two, but Poulter inexplicably missed a simple two-foot putt on the 17th green to give that shot back and put the result beyond doubt.

Such an anti-climatic finish seemed nigh-on impossible earlier in the day as the duo battled back and forth for supremacy over the front nine in a final-round pairing that felt more like a matchplay event.
Scott made a brilliant birdie-birdie start to go from one behind Poulter to one in front, but the Englishman fought straight back.

No cigar: Poulter missed out on the godl jacket

No cigar: Poulter missed out on the godl jacket

Sand trap: Scott battled hard on the final day to pull away from his playing partner

Sand trap: Scott battled hard on the final day to pull away from his playing partner

His approach at the third was stone-dead as he tapped in for birdie to tie it up, before edging one clear yet again when Scott failed to get up-and-down from a tough bunker at the fourth.

Scott then made three consecutive birdies starting at the sixth, with the pick of those coming at the par-four seventh when he rolled in a long putt for three to match Poulter's tap-in birdie and then cheekily mocked the Englishman's reaction from yesterday when he did the same thing to the Australian.

The pair shared birdies at the short par-three eighth and, as the wind increased later in the day, so did their scores.

However, Scott remained steady on the way home, with Poulter's meltdown on the two longest holes on the course proving the difference between the two players.

Queenslander Adam Crawford shot the best round of the day, with his 65 catapulting him up the leaderboard to finish in fifth at six under, while Peter Senior and Michael Hendry were a further two shots back in a share of sixth.

There were no final-round heroics from Graeme McDowell, as the Northern Irishman and third-highest ranked player in the field could only close with a 71.

That was good enough for him to share eighth spot with David Bransdon at two under.

Gracious: Poulter congratulated Scott after his win

Gracious: Poulter congratulated Scott after his win

Emiliano Grillo leads Perth Invitational after two rounds

Grillo grabs surprise lead in Perth but American stars Dufner and Van Pelt lurk

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UPDATED:

11:59 GMT, 19 October 2012

Argentinian youngster Emiliano Grillo is the surprise halfway leader of the ISPS HANDA Perth International after a second-round 67.

The 20-year-old went into the week just focused on securing his European Tour card for next season, lying 112th in the Race to Dubai standings with the top 115 earning another year on tour.

But he leads by four shots after rounds of 66 and 67 at Lake Karrinyup and is now able to aim higher.

Frustration: Paul Casey couldn't maintain his fine form from day one as he slipped down the leaderboard

Frustration: Paul Casey couldn't maintain his fine form from day one as he slipped down the leaderboard

'I think I hit it better yesterday than today but a couple of eagles and a hole-out from the bunker helped a lot,' he told the European Tour website. 'I just want to have a good week. My goal this week was having a good one to keep my card for next year. If I can win, awesome.'

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Both eagles came in a spectacular front nine as Grillo holed from a greenside bunker at the third before his second to the par-four ninth spun back into the hole. His five-under-par round also featured three birdies and two bogeys.

American Bo van Pelt and home player Jason Scrivener are Grillo's nearest challengers at seven under, Van Pelt recording an eagle and five birdies in a 67 while Scrivener's 69 contained five birdies and two dropped shots.

Roo beauty: Some local spectators watch Ryan Lynch tee off on the fourth hole on Friday

Roo beauty: Some local spectators watch Ryan Lynch tee off on the fourth hole on Friday

Another Australian, Max McCardle, is at six under alongside New Zealand's Michael Hendry, American Ryder Cup player Jason Dufner and Alejandro Canizares of Spain.

England's David Howell shot 68 to reach five under, in a large group sharing eighth place, and was keen to capitalise by sealing a place in the end of season DP World Tour Championship near his home in Dubai.

Howell is 71st in the Race to Dubai and a top-five finish in Perth would leave him in a top-60 place and on track to qualify.

'I have been working really hard to
make the top 60 and I've played really consistently the last two or
three months without any particularly good finishes,' he said.

'I'm going to have to have at least one good one if I'm going to make it, so hopefully I'll have a crack at it at the weekend.

'I live five miles from the course in Dubai and I've missed out the last few years, which is a bit frustrating.'

Compatriots Robert Coles and Richard Bland and Australians Peter Cooke and Stephen Dartnall are also at five under.

Former world No 3 Paul Casey briefly held a share of the lead before slipping back down the leaderboard.

Birdies galore: Josh Geary walks past a line of ducks on the third hole at Lake Karrinyup

Birdies galore: Josh Geary walks past a line of ducks on the third hole at Lake Karrinyup

Casey carded an opening 67 to lie two shots behind joint overnight leaders Hendry and Canizares and after two birdies in his first six holes on Friday, the former Ryder Cup star found himself in front.

However, Casey then dropped a shot at the 18th, his ninth hole, and worse was to come with a double-bogey six at the second. Another six followed on the par-five third and when he also bogeyed the fifth, Casey was on his way to an inward half of 40 and a halfway total of two under par.

Ryder Cup 2012: First blood to US at Medinah but Europe hit back

First blood to US at Medinah but Europe hit back as McIlroy and McDowell hold nerve

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UPDATED:

17:50 GMT, 28 September 2012

LIVE: Ryder Cup 2012

Click here to follow all Friday's action from Medinah Country Club as it happens

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell breathed a huge sigh of relief after helping Europe emerge from the opening session of the Ryder Cup tied at 2-2 with the United States.

The Northern Irish pair were sent out first by captain Jose Maria Olazabal and had talked confidently about getting European blue on the board early, but almost squandered a three-hole lead with six to play against Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker.

With Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia already suffering their first ever foursomes defeat in the event in match two, the top match took on further significance and it was Snedeker who cracked under the pressure on the last.

Final green: Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy celebrate after beating Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker

Final green: Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy celebrate after beating Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker

Rory's roar: McIlroy reacts after he and McDowell won the fourth hole of their opening match at Medinah

Rory's roar: McIlroy reacts after he and McDowell won the fourth hole of their opening match at Medinah

Snedeker, who on Sunday held his nerve to win the FedEx Cup and more than $11million, carved his tee shot way off line into a hospitality area to leave Furyk only able to pitch through the trees onto the fairway.

That eventually led to a bogey five but McIlroy was fortunate to see his drive clip some trees and bounce back to the edge of the fairway, from where McDowell dragged his approach into a greenside bunker.

First blood: Keegan Bradley (right) celebrates with Phil Mickelson after the pair beat Donald and Garcia

First blood: Keegan Bradley (right) celebrates with Phil Mickelson after the pair beat Donald and Garcia

Upset: Luke Donald of England (left) and Sergio Garcia of Spain (right) lost their unbeaten foursomes record

Upset: Luke Donald of England (left) and Sergio Garcia of Spain (right) lost their unbeaten foursomes record

World No 1 McIlroy hit a good recovery shot to five feet and McDowell held his nerve to seal the win.

'That match to me just personifies the Ryder Cup,' the former US Open champion said. 'Myself and Rory played some great golf to go three up, and then you're playing against two very gutsy players who clawed their way back to all square coming down the last two holes.

'I'm not sure if you'll play two tougher holes. The finish to this golf course is very strong and we had stacked our team with this finish in mind. I wanted Rory hitting the tee shots on 16 and 18 and our strategy paid off.

'It's a very important session for Team Europe this morning and we wanted to personally go out and try to get some blue on the board. We did that and we were lucky to get the point in the end.'

Wayward: Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker were beaten by Justin Rose and Ian Poulter in the foursomes

Wayward: Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker were beaten by Justin Rose and Ian Poulter in the foursomes

Talisman: Poulter celerates after holing his bunker shot on the 11th hole during the foursomes

Talisman: Poulter celerates after holing his bunker shot on the 11th hole during the foursomes

Donald and Garcia had won all four of their foursomes outings together, winning twice in the routs at Oakland Hills in 2004 and the K Club in 2006, while Garcia was also unbeaten in nine foursomes appearances overall and Donald had won six out of six.

But they ran into an inspired rookie in Keegan Bradley and four-time major winner Phil Mickelson, who won four holes in a row from the 12th to put the first point on the board with a 4&3 victory.

Blow: Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari were beaten by Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner

Blow: Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari were beaten by Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner

Dynamic duo: Dufner and Zach Johnson celebrate a birdie putt on the tenth green

Dynamic duo: Dufner and Zach Johnson celebrate a birdie putt on the tenth green

After McDowell and McIlroy's win – which had featured the first potential flashpoint on the second hole when Furyk queried whether McDowell should get a free drop from near a sprinkler – Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson restored the home side's side lead with a 3&2 win over Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari.

The European pair were one up after a birdie on the seventh but did not make another and succumbed tamely with bogeys on the 15th and 16th, the former coming when Westwood drove into water on the reachable par-four.

Sandman: McIlroy plays from a bunker during Friday morning's Ryder Cup foursomes

Sandman: McIlroy plays from a bunker during Friday morning's Ryder Cup foursomes

Tee time: Mickelson hits his opening shot on the fourth hole during his successful foursomes match

Tee time: Mickelson hits his opening shot on the fourth hole during his successful foursomes match

But the reliable pairing of Ian Poulter and Justin Rose ensured honours were even with a 2&1 victory over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker which should have been even more emphatic.

Woods was all over the golf course – hitting his second spectator this week on the seventh – and Stricker dumped his tee shot to the second in the water, but they somehow extended the game to the 17th before Rose closed the door with a superb chip shot played with a fairway wood from just off the green.

Cheerleader: Former Chicago Bulls basketball player Michael Jordan is now part of the American backroom team

Cheerleader: Former Chicago Bulls basketball player Michael Jordan is now part of the American backroom team

Flying the flag: American fans provided a raucous atmosphere for the opening stages of the Cup

Flying the flag: American fans provided a raucous atmosphere for the opening stages of the Cup

Outnumbered: Europe fans made their presence felt despite being heavily in the minority

Outnumbered: Europe fans made their presence felt despite being heavily in the minority

Carlisle v Tottenham: Greg Abbott Exclusive

Greg Abbott Exclusive: Hot seat Tottenham will be lucky if they get hot water!

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 25 September 2012

Greg Abbott points to the Brunton Park away dug-out where Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas, his staff and subs will sit on Wednesday night.

'I must remember to switch on the heated seats,' he says. Of course there are no heated seats at Carlisle United. Just 15 plastic seats, possibly borrowed from a local school, nailed to the wall and floor, covered by a concrete bunker.

The pitch is immaculate, one of the best in the country, certain to survive the deluge which has hit Cumbria and suited to Tottenham's passing. But there's not much else to Brunton Park, as the Spurs millionaires will discover.

Warming the bench: Carlisle will host Tottenham in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday night

Warming the bench: Carlisle will host Tottenham in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday night

'It doesn't have all the joys and comforts of White Hart Lane,' says Abbott. 'It's pretty basic. When Huddersfield came a couple of years ago their coach Derek Fazackerley got very upset because there was no hot water.

'He came charging into our dressing room after they'd lost, ranting and raving – which is very brave for the opposition – demanding hot water. There was some in the shower in my office, but you can't guarantee it up here in November. We' ve had a laugh about it since. 'But I can assure you we will have hot running water for the Spurs lads. I think… '

A home tie may present Carlisle with their best chance of pulling off a League Cup shock over the four times winners, but Abbott and his club might have preferred a tie in North London.

Change of scenery: The Premier League giants will make the trip to League One side Carlisle

Change of scenery: The Premier League giants will make the trip to League One side Carlisle

They hope to make approximately 50,000, but an away tie could have been seven times that amount, enough to keep this club afloat for three years and give Abbott some rare spending money. His entire squad cost 60,000, the amount he paid Bohemians for striker Paddy Madden who is now struggling to cement a place in the side.

He has been overtaken by Mark Beck and David Symington, two 18-year-olds from the School of Excellence on 150-a-week who both scored their first senior goals in their third games to knock Ipswich out of the last round. Keeper Mark Gillespie, rejected by Newcastle at 16, is the youngest in the Football League.

Abbott said: 'They've given the whole city and club a lift. This club discovered the likes of Matt Jansen, Rory Delap, Leon Osman. But it takes times and money and our youth coach Eric Kinder has done brilliantly.

Keeping up appearances: Mark Gillespie, rejected by Newcastle at 16, is the youngest in the Football League

Keeping up appearances: Mark Gillespie, rejected by Newcastle at 16, is the youngest in the Football League

'We'd love to have an academy but the most important thing is what happens on that pitch now. That's the reality.'

At three years and 328 days, former Bradford and Hull midfielder Abbott is the ninth longest serving manager in the English league. He is No 1 in League One's chart, leading Leyton Orient's Russell Slade by more than 18 months.

'I've always been at this level but it's madness,' he says. 'You spend your time avoiding traffic and eventually something gets you.

In training: The League One outfit would have made a small fortune if the tie had been at White Hart Lane

In training: The League One outfit would have made a small fortune if the tie had been at White Hart Lane

'You really have to survive your first year. This country has the biggest fall-out of first-time managers. We have lost too many good young coaches which can't be good for the British game.

'This is my first job and the brutal reality is I will either get the sack or go to a better job. And I've told the chairman that.'

He has worked in the top flight, starting his coaching career at Leeds United's academy in the late 90s.

'The first day I went down for lunch, there was so much smoked salmon, steaks, king prawns, seven inch-long langoustines, I asked David O'Leary and Eddie Gray who was getting married.'

Cash flow: The entire Carlisle squad cost a mere 60,000

Cash flow: The entire Carlisle squad cost a mere 60,000

'He rang me on a private number, and said “Greg. It's Alex.” I said “Alex who” “Sir Alex,” he said.

It's rather different to lunch now. Abbott has installed a toastie maker and is head chef.

'The
laundry lady Emma had to put a chair in the room because she said I'm a
great cook but a very messy one. It's usually ham, cheese and onion and
if we're feeling healthy we have tomatoes. So we don't have tomatoes
very often.'

League One clubs like Carlisle still have to compete with the Premier League for different reasons. Carlisle's home attendance fell by 1,500 within four days last week when fans had a choice between a Tuesday night home match with Crewe or the televised Real Madrid v Manchester City Champions League clash.

'Which would you choose' he admitted. 'Nights like that cripple us financially and it's tough.'

Net gains: But Abbott is unhappy with his side's sluggish start to the season

Net gains: But Abbott is unhappy with his side's sluggish start to the season

This week started with a gym session with his players and a new fitness coach, a sports science student from Bolton University, hired for virtually nothing to help with his studies.

'Our MD John Nixon was delighted,' Abbott said. 'He told me I could get two at that price.'

Physio Neil Dalton is also in the small, sweaty room, but spends most of his time trying to fix a`sled', the new piece of training equipment which players have to drag across the floor, after locating the club's only tool kit.

Abbott and his assistant Graham Kavanagh, the former Ireland international, then move to the pitches behind the ground, next to the River Eden which bursts its banks three years ago, flooding the pitches. Funds were found to rebuild and protect them.

Paperwork: The Carlisle boss is preparing his side for the visit of Tottenham

Paperwork: The Carlisle boss is preparing his side for the visit of Tottenham

Football League blog

Abbott is unhappy with the sluggish start. He is renowned for enjoying a laugh but growls from the centre circle, then paces the sidelines. His humour is well-known. Just ask Roberto Mancini, fellow award winner at a Manchester dinner last year and neighbour on the top table.

Abbott, recently overlooked for a return to Hull and home-town Coventry, said: 'We'd won the Johnstone Paints Trophy and I got talking to Roberto. I've built up a good relationship with David Platt – he told me to sign Chris Chantler from City who has been terrific for us – and we had a good chat. I'd had a couple of pints so I was talking Italian, I think.

'When it was my turn to get up for our award, I turned to Roberto and said “not being funny Roberto but with Tevez and 120million I could win the FA Cup. You want to try win the Johnstone Paints and get out of League One with Danny Livesey and one point boss-all”. He loved it. When I sat back down he shook my hand and said “hey, I love Livesey!”

Sir Alex Ferguson was an award winner that night too and Abbott is on the Christmas card list thanks to his treatment of several young United players on loan.

'He rang me on a Sunday night, private number, and said “Greg. It's Alex.” I said “Alex who” “Sir Alex,” he said. I was suddenly sweating, pacing the house as he thanked us for how we'd looked after James Chester.

'He said “it's up to you if you play him tomorrow but we are selling James to Hull the following day so you might not want to play him.” So I said “you're basically saying you don't want me to play him then.” Sir Alex said “you're going to go a long way in management, son because you learn very quickly.”

'I know we can ring United and ask about a player if we need one because they know they will be treated properly here and they will play games. That relationship means the world to me.'

He would love to put out a side tonight including just some of the names he has had to sell – Kieren Westwood, Ian Harte, Danny Graham, Adam Clayton, Gary Madine – but he is more than content with his lot.

He said: 'If I could put out that side we'd win this division by March and get where we want to be in the Championship.

'But we are proud to see those lads in the Premier League and it means we have survived. We are not swimming in money, of course we'd like more, but we are not in desperate trouble.

'We're still at the right end of the division, still improving year on year and hopefully one day we'll get there.'

Tiger Woods moves ahead of Rory McIlroy in battle for $10m FedEx Cup booty

Woods drops old pals' act to move ahead of McIlroy in battle for $10m booty

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UPDATED:

23:50 GMT, 20 September 2012

If this is what Tiger Woods plays like when he is feeling intimidated, heaven help the rest of golf if he ever gets over it.

Greg Norman's bizarre belief that the
American has been somehow cowed by Rory McIlroy's recent success always
did sound fanciful, and certainly here as Woods breezed round East Lake
in a score of 66 to share the first round lead at the Tour Championship
with the Englishman Justin Rose.

McIlroy was more prosaic by comparison,
and was thankful for some exemplary bunker play to salvage a score of
69. As things stand, it is Woods who has moved ahead of the Northern
Irishman in the race for the FedEx Cup booty of $10million but this, of
course, was nothing more than a small jab to the ribs with three rounds
to play rather than a telling blow.

Behind you: Tiger Woods keeps a close eye on Rory McIlroy in Atlanta

Behind you: Tiger Woods keeps a close eye on Rory McIlroy in Atlanta

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McIlroy, for his part, was happy enough. 'Obviously I'd like to have been a couple of shots better but I'm still in a good position,' he commented.

The first three events of this FedEx race were marked by chumminess and almost non-stop banter between Tiger and Rory. On Thursday, there was a noticeable drop in the levels of conversation. Had they run out of things to say More likely, it was simply an awareness they are now in the final knockings of what has appeared for the past month to be their own private race to $10 million.

So it was that Woods had the game-face on he used to wear during all those major victories, while McIlroy's bore the strain we normally see on the final day of an event, not the first.

Just 30 players contest this event and,
in theory, all 30 could win the mammoth bonus. But such are the current
roles Woods and McIlroy occupy it felt like the first 14 pairings were
warm-up bouts.

Feeling it: McIlroy struggled early on in Atlanta

Scrappy: McIlroy struggled early on

Tiger's intent was there from the start. He should have birdied the first hole and did birdie the second and third.

McIlroy, by contrast, began like someone who has just had the biggest
cheque he has ever seen dangled under his nose. A pulled iron shot and a
clunked chip for an untidy bogey at the first was the classic start of a
man feeling a little tight, and another bogey looked on the cards when
he tweaked his tee shot into a bunker at the short second. A perfect
recovery, however, rescued a par.

At the third, with Woods tap-in distance away, McIlroy was looking over a
20ft birdie putt knowing if he missed it he would be three strokes
behind after three holes. But here was another indication of how much
his putting has improved, as he died the ball beautifully into the hole.

It was a fascinating start to another compelling duel, with Woods taking
this one. The great strides forward he has made with his driving were
on show here, and on the purest greens imaginable he made a few putts as
well.

Perfect start: Justin Rose

Perfect start: Justin Rose

McIlroy, by contrast, was a little scrappy, which was hardly surprising
given how hard it is to continue the momentum of successive victories.
It might be of interest to Norman that, of the five rounds McIlroy and
Woods have played together over the past month, Tiger has finished ahead
in four of them.

The feelgood factor established by the Europeans over the past six weeks
continued as Rose chipped in at the 14th and then holed a 50 footer at
the last on his way to his own four under par score.

A lot of things would have to go Rose's way for him to win the $10
million – Rory would have to finish outside the top 16 and Tiger outside
the top five, to name but two unlikely scenarios – but at least he has
made the perfect start.

As for the other home players, Luke Donald shot 71 and Lee Westwood a 72.

Open 2012: Rory McIlroy slips out of contention

McIlroy slips out of Open contention after woes in second round

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UPDATED:

15:22 GMT, 20 July 2012

Rory McIlroy left himself a mountain to climb at The Open with a second round 75 – but at least he did not forget the teenager he hit on the head the day before.

Rather than having Bristol 16-year-old Jason Blue sleeping in a tent again, the world number two provided a hotel room and 'some cash' – around 100 he then said – in addition to the signed glove he had given him at the time.

'I thought it was the least I could do when he's got a massive gash in the side of his head,' McIlroy stated. I put him and his mate up for the night and actually tried to get them into the hotel for a couple more nights, but they were just fully booked.'

Tough day: Rory McIlroy struggled during the second day of The Open

Tough day: Rory McIlroy struggled during the second day of The Open

There was very nearly another casualty after the Northern Irishman resumed in joint sixth place on three under.

McIlroy's wild approach to the third came down right next to Toru Oda, the caddie of Japanese player Toshinori Muto.

That it also narrowly avoided the thick rough added to the 23-year-old's relief, but he bogeyed the hole and it was on the short ninth that the round really started getting away from him.

While an alarm was sounding in a nearby house – he refused to blame that – McIlroy failed to get out of a greenside bunker, took a double bogey five and then dropped three more strokes coming home.

Each resulted from finding rain-sodden bunkers, the one on the 17th so bad that he chose to drop the ball in the sand away from the water.

He added: 'It wasn't the best day out there. I was doing pretty well just to hang in there and making a double on the ninth was sort of the turning point.

'I couldn't really recover from that. I wasn't committing to my tee shots and was in two minds a few times about what shots to hit. That's just something I'll need to improve on tomorrow – just really commit to it and try to get the ball in the fairway.

Gloomy outlook: McIlroy is left hoping for a miracle at Royal Lytham

Gloomy outlook: McIlroy is left hoping for a miracle at Royal Lytham

'The wind was in an opposite direction, even though there wasn't much of it, and it made the tough holes play even tougher. It was just one of those days where I couldn't quite get on my game and struggled to get any sort of momentum.

'I felt like I was hitting the ball pretty good on the range. I was losing a few to the left, so maybe that's why I was trying to protect that one and I missed a couple to the right early on.

Obviously Snedeker is a little bit ahead at the minute, but I feel like if I can maybe get it back (tomorrow) to where I was at the start of the day I'd still have a great chance.

'The course is very playable. You just need to keep out of the bunkers, which is the whole idea any way. I don't see any problem with the water in the bunkers.

'I've had one unlucky break (he went out of bounds off Blue's head), but a couple of lucky breaks, so it sort of all evens out in the end.'

Twice champion Padraig Harrington also stands two over following a 72 that included bogeys at three of the final four holes for an inward 40.

He added: 'I'd like to have them back, but that's the nature of the game. It's frustrating. You need to get the breaks and I'm depending on getting breaks. If I was three under par or so I'd be depending on just playing good golf, whereas now I'm depending on playing good golf and getting a little bit lucky.'

The Open 2012: David Duval back at the scene of triumph

2001 champion Duval hoping to rise above the wreckage back at Royal Lytham

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UPDATED:

21:50 GMT, 18 July 2012

David Duval walked into a riotous European Ryder Cup team room at The Belfry in the wake of the USA defeat of 2002 to be confronted with the sight on screen of David Duval thrashing away in a bunker.

Sam Torrance, the victorious captain, had arranged for a motivational video to be compiled showing a catalogue of disasters involving members of the American team. Duval’s contribution focused on the four shots he required to extricate himself from Road Bunker at the 71st hole of the 2000 Open Championship at St Andrews.

'Don’t look, David,' Torrance said while covering Duval’s eyes with his hands.

Then and now: David Duval is back at Royal Lytham, the scene of his 2001 Open triumph

Then and now: David Duval is back at Royal Lytham, the scene of his 2001 Open triumph

... but the American's indifferent career is more remembered for incidents like the torturous stint in the 17th bunker on the final round at St Andrews in 2000

… but the American's indifferent career is more remembered for incidents like the torturous stint in the 17th bunker on the final round at St Andrews in 2000

‘Don’t worry,’ Duval replied with the speed of mind that can apparently complete a New York Times cryptic puzzle before breakfast, ‘I have my name on that trophy.’

It had been engraved the previous year, the last time Royal Lytham & St Annes staged The Open and just about the last time he performed with the ability that took him to the top of the world rankings. He tees off today at No 775. He has been worse.

The past decade has seen a slump of Wall Street proportions. Duval has missed the cut at more than 120 tournaments and major championships against a background of frequent injury and chronic loss of confidence. There have been tears and heartbreak.

‘I forgot how to play golf,’ he once said.

But he remains an Open champion. His name does indeed appear on the trophy.

‘That’s the one thing, regardless of
what happens in a player’s career, you get your name on the Open trophy
as an Open champion,’ he said on Wednesday.

‘They can’t take it off, they can’t
take it away. And — one of the neat things I was told about over here,
and it’s the truth — they never forget.

Up for the cup: Duval in 2001

Up for the cup: Duval in 2001

‘The fans never forget. I’m received. I hear dads telling their kids who weren’t even born, that’s an Open champion there, you know. That’s really cool.’

The warmth is not just for a champion but a champion who gave one of the most impressive and dignified speeches at a prizegiving ceremony in the history of the championship.

That day, an enigma perceived in certain quarters as somewhat aloof, revealed something of the person behind his trademark wraparound sunglasses.

There have been times in his subsequent returns to The Open that spectators might have been issued with shades, so painful has it been to watch the fallen star. He was 19 over par when missing the cut in 2003, 13 over in 2005, 16 over in 2008 and 15 over last year. In 2004 he struck the ball so badly in practice that he decided not to tee up on the Thursday.

Forget any lingering mental anguish. Nothing can compare to the pain he has endured and he will experience this morning in trying to hit the ball.

‘I hit three or four shots yesterday that kind of almost put me down,’ Duval revealed alarmingly about his current injury problem. ‘I have an arm brace right now. I’ve got bone bruises in my knee, so I’m still hurting. I don’t feel the greatest.

‘I’ve had tendinitis in both shoulders. I’ve got it in my elbows and in my wrist. I have a back problem that’s well documented. I’ve had vertigo. There’s a laundry list. That stuff wrecks your golf game.

‘I should have taken 18 months out in 2002, protected my golf game and my confidence, moved on and just given away that year and a half, not eight years like I did.’

Don't get stuck again: Duval is in chipper spirits despite his lowly ranking

Don't get stuck again: Duval is in chipper spirits despite his lowly ranking

Don’t dare feel sorry for Duval. A more rounded and fulfilled golfer you could not meet. Here is a man not frightened to face a posse of golf writers and declare ‘enough about the golf’; here is someone who talks openly about seeing, embracing, enjoying and loving life; here is a 40-year-old who tells hardened hacks that his wife ‘hung the moon’. He thinks her wonderful.

And yet enough of the narrow-minded, egotistical touring professional remains in Duval for him to contemplate extending his battle against time and precedent — they never come back — not just for the next 10 years until he turns 50 but beyond into the lucrative senior events on the Champions Tour.

‘Saying “enough about the golf” does not mean I don’t love it, don’t think I’m really good at it, and don’t think I am going to be really great at it again.

‘I can absolutely win this week. I believe in myself as a golfer and I know I can play as well as anybody. Everything just needs to fall into place a little bit.

‘In the midst of my struggles I nearly won the US Open,’ Duval pointed out, referring to his astonishing second place in 2009.

'So it’s in there.’ But can it come out

US OPEN 2012: Hole-by-hole guide to The Olympic Club

US OPEN 2012: Sportsmail's hole-by-hole guide to The Olympic Club in San Francisco

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UPDATED:

08:20 GMT, 12 June 2012

The Olympic Club plays host to the second major of the year as Rory McIlroy defends his US Open title in San Francisco.

The course was tough enough when Lee Janzen won here in 1998 with a score of level par and the track offers a stiffer challenge these days with the first six holes just about the most difficult stretch in the game.

Here, we take a look at the 7170-yard, par-70 layout.

US Open hole-by-hole guide

THE OLYMPIC CLUB

1st, 520 yards, par four: What used to
be a par five starts a six-hole opening stretch which United States
Golf Association executive director Mike Davis reckons might be the most
difficult in major history. Any approach missing long or right will run
away and thick brush on the left is a real no-go area.

2nd, 428 yards, par four: Because the
fairway narrows at 270 yards, many players will opt for something less
than a driver, while the green slopes severely from back to front and
players going long will have an extremely difficult time getting up and
down.

3rd, 247 yards, par three: The longest
par three on the course plays significantly downhill. The prevailing
left-to-right wind cannot be felt on the tee and makes the green a
relatively small target. A forward tee will also be used during the
week.

4th, 438 yards, par four: The fairway
slopes left to right while the hole doglegs right to left. Many will
choose an iron with the fairway narrowing at 265 yards. The uphill
approach shot from a hanging lie is to a green which tilts from back
left to front right.

5th, 498 yards, par four: In contrast
to the fourth this fairway slopes right to left while doglegging left to
right. Large trees guard the right side at driving distance, but at
least the approach plays downhill and typically downwind.

6th, 489 yards, par four: Around 50
yards longer than it was for the 1998 US Open. With the fairway bunker
now a 295-yard carry, many will opt for a three-wood, but that will
obviously leave a far longer second. Fourteen years ago it was often no
more than a wedge.

7th, 288 yards, par four: At last a
breather, but to make it more challenging there will be no intermediate
rough. Hitting an iron leaves around 80 yards to the two-tiered green,
but a forward tee of 265 yards will increase the temptation to go for
it.

8th, 200 yards, par three: This
brand-new hole will play about 60 yards longer than the previous
version. The green slopes from right to left and is set at an angle,
while large cypress trees lie in wait on the left.

9th, 449 yards, par four: Like the
fifth with his sloping fairway and dogleg right. Many will choose a
three-wood from the tee, but any approach missing the green will likely
run away because of the closely-mown surround.

10th, 424 yards, par four: The angle on this dogleg right has been sharpened by moving the fairway to the right, making it more likely that a tee shot could run through the fairway unless shaped correctly. The green slopes from front to back.

11th, 430 yards, par four: This fairway was shifted to the left to create more of a dogleg. Most will be able to hit driver from the tee, though the approach may have to be played off a hanging lie to a two-tier green sloping from back to front.

12th, 451 yards, par four: Thirty-five yards longer than in 1998. The drive is now hit out of a narrow alley and anything pushed or pulled could hit the Monterey pine or cypress trees. The fairway has again been moved to the left and this is another green with run-offs.

13th, 199 yards, par three: Bunkers front the green, but the key change from previous Opens is that the rough to the left has been altered to a closely-mown area and a dry lateral water hazard comes into play more.

14th, 419 yards, par four: The fairway on this dogleg left has been shifted to the left, which brings trees more into play. Players prepared to hit driver can take advantage of the downhill sloping fairway, which would leave only a wedge to the green.

15th, 154 yards, par three: As on the seventh those who miss this green will find no intermediate cut, just five-to-six-inch primary rough. But it still presents a birdie opportunity, unusual this late on a US Open lay-out.

16th, 670 yards, par five: The longest hole in US Open history, although a forward tee is likely to be used once or twice. There is a sharp dogleg left and the fairway begins to narrow past 300 yards. Shots that miss the green long or left will bounce farther away.

17th, 522 yards, par five: Converted into a par five for the first time in a US Open. The fairway slopes more severely from left to right than any on the course and the tee has been moved 20 yards. Those who find the fairway will have the chance to go for the green in two.

18th, 344 yards, par four: Changes to this green will hopefully rule out a repeat of the 1998 controversy when the pin on the second day was put on too severe a slope. No need for driver off the tee, but uphill only the top half of the flag can be seen for the approach to a green surrounded by five-to-six-inch rough.

Rory McIlroy ends 2011 on a high

What are you doing up there Rory McIlroy ends 2011 on a high as US Open champion dazzles in Dubai

A major winner at 22 and with a tennis pin-up for a girlfriend, Rory McIroy probably knows how it feels to be on top of the world.

But the Northern Irishman is making sure he keeps his head for heights as he gears up for another big year.

What a finish: Rory McIlroy plays his final shots of 2011 overlooking Dubai from the Burj Al Arab helipad

What a finish: Rory McIlroy plays his final shots of 2011 overlooking Dubai from the Burj Al Arab helipad

Bunker bother: McIlroy splashes out of the sand on the Burj Al Arab helipad as hotel staff keep a close eye

Bunker bother: McIlroy splashes out of the sand on the Burj Al Arab helipad as hotel staff keep a close eye

What a setting: McIlroy looks down on Dubai

The world No 3, who goes out with Danish star Caroline Wozniacki, rounded off an excellent 12 months by showing off his skills in Dubai on the famous Jumeirah Burj Al Arab helipad.

The youngster failed to pip Luke Donald in the Race to Dubai at the Earth Course but hotel staff looked well impressed with McIlroy”s bunker play as the US Open champion showed no signs of fatigue following a hectic few weeks.

McIlroy, a global ambassador for Jumeirah, has hardly stopped since September but is back home for Christmas as he looks ahead to 2012. And we reckon he”ll have a good view.

Don

Don”t hit it too hard Rory: McIlroy must get the strength just right or it”s “bye bye ball” and “look out below”

Don

Don”t look down: McIlroy had a great view and he will be looking forward to 2012 after an amazing 2011

RORY”S IN GOOD COMPANY….
Different ball game: Tennis legend Andre Agassi and Roger Federer made a racket on the helipad in 2005

Different ball game: Tennis legend Andre Agassi and Roger Federer made a racket on the helipad in 2005

Rory McIlroy two off lead at Dubai World Championship

McIlroy in the mix at Dubai World Championship as money leader Donald makes slow start

The European Tour title race looks set to go right to the wire after Rory McIlroy produced a fabulous nine-hole stretch, just as Luke Donald was losing his way.

/12/08/article-2071610-0F1A9D3A00000578-880_468x372.jpg” width=”468″ height=”372″ alt=”In the hunt: Rory McIlroy is two shots off the lead at the Earth Course in Dubai” class=”blkBorder” />

In the hunt: Rory McIlroy is two shots off the lead at the Earth Course in Dubai

Dubai World Championship

Click here for the full leaderboard

But England”s world No 1, paired with McIlroy, fell back to joint 26th when three successive bogeys from the 14th left him with a level-par 72.

The first two dropped shots came when he drove into bushes and he had to take penalty drops, the third when he could not recover from finding a fairway bunker off the next tee.

“I felt very much in control and then I lost it,” Donald said as a race he seemed a near-certainty to win a month ago hotted up even more.

He has only to think back two months, however, to realise there is still a long way to go.

Until tomorrow: McIlroy shakes hands with Luke Donald after round one in Dubai

Until tomorrow: McIlroy shakes hands with Luke Donald after round one in Dubai

Donald became the first European to capture the PGA Tour money list title in America when he played the last nine holes of the final event in 30 to overtake Webb Simpson.

He also recalled his last trip to the Earth course 13 months ago.

“This is two shots better than the first round last year and I still finished ninth,” he added. “You”ve got to find the positives.”

However, McIlroy won the Hong Kong Open last Sunday with a closing 65 and feeling run down is not affecting his golf yet.

“To be honest, I”m sort of using it to my advantage in a way,” Northern Ireland”s US Open champion said.

Level par: Donald was a bit wayward off the tee during his round of 72

Level par: Donald was a bit wayward off the tee during his round of 72

“It”s sort of taken the pressure off me. I”m not 100 per cent and if it doesn”t happen it doesn”t happen and there”s nothing I can do about it.

“You can just go about your game and try and play as well as you can.

“I definitely don”t feel invincible, but I feel like every time I tee it up I”ve got a good chance of shooting a good score.

“I don”t think I”ve finished outside the top four since the US PGA (eight events ago) and everything seems sort of stress-free.

“It”s not going to last forever, I”m sure. I”m sure there”s going to be a point where I struggle, but right now it”s nice to have that feeling.”

Not even losing a ball with his fifth shot of the day and taking a double bogey bothered McIlroy as he birdied two of the next three.

But it was after the turn when the fireworks really began.

Nicely done: Sweden

Nicely done: Sweden”s Peter Hanson is out in front on his own after a 64

He holed from 12 feet on 10, 25 feet on 13, 12 feet at the next, 40 feet on 16 and from 18 and 20 feet on the final two greens.

He still reckons Donald has a better short game than him, but it was Donald who came into the event saying that McIlroy had the most talent of anyone he had ever played with.

That sparked some heated debate given that Tiger Woods has won 14 majors and 93 titles as a pro, and Donald”s eve-of-tournament preparations included going on his Twitter site to praise Woods.

“A few people aren”t understanding what I meant,” he said. “The word talent and Rory to me means a free-flowing swing who makes everything look so easy.

Flawless: Scotland

Flawless: Scotland”s Paul Lawrie had no dropped shots in his round of 65

“Tiger has always been the best at getting the ball in the hole when it mattered the most. That”s not just talent, that”s something else too.

“Talent can only take you so far, you need the right attitude (mindset) and application to perform at the highest level.

“I”d never try to disrespect Tiger in any way. He is still the greatest player I have played with.”

McIlroy, no stranger to Twitter controversies himself, was asked for his opinion on the matter.

“It”s one thing to have talent, but another to actually have the capability of turning that talent into something productive,” he said.

On a hat-trick: Spaniard Sergio Garcia is aiming for a third straight victory

On a hat-trick: Spaniard Sergio Garcia is aiming for a third straight victory

“I think what Luke was saying was maybe golf comes as easy to me as it does Tiger – I”ll never know – but Tiger”s won 90-whatever tournaments and 14 majors and that”s definitely more of a talent than (my) five wins.

“There”s different type of talent. I think what he said was maybe taken a little bit out of context.”

Meanwhile, it was Hanson who actually played the best golf of the day.

He also came home in 30 to equal the course record set by Lee Westwood in winning the 2009 title and matched by Ross Fisher last year.

Without a victory since making his Ryder Cup debut 15 months ago, he leads by a stroke from 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie, whose win in Spain in March was his first success for nine years.

Sergio Garcia is fourth after a 67 and so still has hopes of a third successive Tour victory.